Terror strikes Mumbai, Srinagar
Mumbai, July 11
All the explosions happened between 6.20 and 6.30 in the evening giving rise to speculation that it was a synchronized effort of a single group.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh later said that initial evidence pointed out to the Lashkar-e-Toiba whose activists have been arrested in the state with high-intensity explosives including RDX in the past several months.
Intial information from the police indicate that the bombers had packed the explosives in bags, similar to those carried by office-goers, and kept them in the overhead luggage carriers of first class compartments. In all the cases, the impact tore off the upper portion of the bogie. Most of the victims who died or were injured in the blasts also received injuries to their upper torsoes, according to the police.
The trains chosen by the bombers plied on the busy Western Railway suburban corridor. The five trains plying between Churchgate and Virar were chosen since these trains carry the maximum number of commuters at all hours.
With the blasts happening all along the 65 km-route, train services along the Western Railway were quickly suspended. Six of the blasts happened at Borivili, Khar, Mira Road, Matunga, Jogeshwari and Bhayander railway stations. The seventh was on the Khar-Santacruz subway, police said.
In Borivli and Matunga, the trains had just arrived at the platform when the explosives went off. The impact of the explosion tore off the roof of the platform at Matunga.
At Borivli, the entire first class coach of the ill-fated train was ripped open and parts of the train's equipment fell on the food stalls on the platform. Deshmukh later told reporters that two explosives may have gone off simultaneously at Borivli.
In all the cases, alert citizenry braving heavy rains played a major role in saving the lives of the injured passengers. At Borivli, police personnel from the RPF quarters in the premises were the first to jump into action. With help from railway employees and passengers, the injured were quickly pulled out of the ill-fated compartment and sent to the Bhagwathi hospital nearby.
"One auto-rickshaw driver carried four bodies in his vehicle, but as he took a sharp turn near the stations one body fell out creating much panic," an eyewitness toldthis reporter. However the busy road outside the station was quickly cordoned off with police and volunteers from all the major political parties co-ordinating seamlessly.
"All the dead and injured were removed to Bhagwathi hospital in half an hour," the station master said.
However at other stations passengers complained of lethargic efforts by the police. The Railway Protection Force came in for strong criticism for not helping passengers lift the dead and injured.
However volunteers quickly brought in bedsheets to remove the dead and injured from trains and platforms to nearby hospitals.
All the blast venues had gory scenes to report. At Borivli station, volunteers in blood-stained clothes helped investigators recover bags and wallets of passengers in order to establish the identity of the victims.
Damaged laptops, tiffin boxes and office documents drenched in blood were a grim indicator of sudden tragedy.
At Khar road the impact of the explosion threw several passengers hanging on to the doors of the train on to the railway tracks. Several of them sustained serious injuries in the process, the police said.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh announced Rs 1 lakh compensation to the families of the dead.
Mumbai city has been put on red alert following the blasts. All religious institutions and places of interest have been cordoned off. The police said security checks have been tightened at the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
The blasts caused panic as people trying to reach their loved ones jammed both mobile and landline telephones in the city.
MTNL officials said telephone services were not disconnected and networks were congested due to heavy usage.
Mumbai's police commissioner A N Roy said the police were questioning terrorists of the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba who were arrested with huge consignments of RDX from various parts of Maharashtra earlier this year.
The police had then said that the terror outfit had spawned several modules functioning independently of each other.